Sharing gratitude on a nightly basis

Before my children go to sleep at night, I have 3 questions that I ask them:

  1. What did you learn today?
  2. What was your favorite part of the day?
  3. What are you grateful for?

These questions have become a ritual for us as we have been doing it for years. We continue to do so even as we navigate the middle school days for my youngest and now are moving into the high school years for my oldest. I know we all look forward to this time of connection as it opens up a conversation that goes beyond the simple responses to those questions.

I have been surprised to find that the topic about gratitude is often the one that is discussed the most. There is an appreciation for all of us when we take the time to offer our thanks for something that happened during the day. My girls’ answers may be about a material item they received or a favorite food that they were able to eat — especially if it is a dessert — and I have found that is a practice for me to listen to their responses without judgement.

hands-heart-grainsIt is a gift for each of us to pay attention to one another in a way that offers a willingness to receive whatever the other person has to offer. I am thankful for this opportunity to connect with my kids and for us to grow in our understanding that often it is the simple things in life that we are most grateful for.

Sometimes my girls give me the same answer for all 3 questions, and I am fine with this as I recognize that maybe being tired overcomes the desire to engage in conversation. I trust that they are offering what they can in the moment and that on a different day I may hear much more when they are ready to share. It is also possible that one event was the highlight of their day and the one thing that does answer all 3 of the questions. When I realize this, I am excited that they were able to engage in an activity that was filled with joy.

The time just before we fall asleep is one of my favorite moments of the day. I know that this can be a magical time when both girls are willing to open up with me and express what they are thinking or how they are feeling, which they might not do during any other time of the day. Every once and awhile, I have tried to get them to answer the questions over dinner only to be confronted with the comment that the day is not yet complete so I will just have to wait until later in the evening.

Over the years, I have grown to realize that this simple time with my kids is one of the best ways to engage in peaceful parenting as it reminds us what we are thankful for and encourages a dialogue that may not have taken place. I am amazed at all the events that they encounter in a day without me. I trust that they are navigating each experience with grace even when it is not so easy. I know that they will talk to me when needed.

As we move into a season where many families are expressing gratitude, I am reminded of how lovely it is for me and my kids to share our thanksgivings on a nightly basis. 

Hold on to Your Kids

By Lysa Parker, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

lysa parkerFor me, Attachment Parenting (AP) has been like a life preserver in a cultural sea that is constantly in turbulence and posing many dangers.

While AP provides us with tools for holding on to your kids, once they enter the world at large you hope your children will stay connected, but we’ve found it continues to take effort on our part as parents. The bottom line is that all relationships take work — even with our spouses.

At every stage of our children’s lives, we hoped that we just could relax and enjoy the fruits of all the efforts we put into them in their early years, only to find out that the relaxing part comes in spurts.

Of course their successes, joys and triumphs become yours as well, but it can be so hard to watch them find their way in this world. Their struggles and pain become your struggles and pain. You know they have to go through the realities of life; they have to learn through their own experiences and decisions.

I wish we could just turn off our emotions and brush our hands and say, “We did our job as parents and now it’s up to them,” but you can’t — not when you are connected. As children grow into their teens and even adulthood, it takes a conscious effort to keep that connection…everyday!

There are so many temptations in our world, so many “wolves” just waiting to attack the hearts and minds of our children. We not only have to build their strength and confidence to face these challenges, but we have to do it for ourselves so that we can be there when they need us and be strong. That’s where having a strong AP community as your extended family can be a safety net.

Attachment Parenting International cofounder and Attached at the Heart coauthor Barbara Nicholson and I often talk about our sons, how we’ve raised sensitive young men who are creative and very independent. While these are wonderful qualities, some of our children are finding it very difficult to find their place in this world and it’s taking a lot longer than we thought. We have no doubt that they will, but it’s not as easy as it seems for others.

We can’t help ourselves from wondering, worrying about them finding the right person to share their life, to bear their children. Will they choose AP as their path or go the opposite way? Will they stay close to our family? Will they all be healthy and happy?

My husband will half-jokingly say that when he turned 18, his parents ran away from home. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generation thinks it is very odd for a child over the age of 18 to live at home. But more importantly, our high-touch, sensitive children require close connections at home to help them maintain their stability.

I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Robert Epstein who said, in reference to the turmoil and troubles many teens and young adults are having in our Western culture: “Any culture that severs the connection between young people and older people creates this problem.” He went on to say that no other teens in the world experience the problems with drug abuse and suicide like we see.

The point I want to make is that while we may make great improvements in our parenting from previous generations, the AP way of life will not always protect our children or prevent them from making mistakes in judgment. If there are generations of abuse or addictions in your family, changing that course will likely take more than one generation. Still, we can affirm to ourselves that we are on the right path to breaking the cycles of dysfunction that so many families have endured for generations.

Our job as parents is to maintain our connection to our children, to be there when they fall, to be their rock and their compass and bring them back home to a circle of security that will refresh and strengthen their hearts. Attachment Parenting gives us the strength, the wisdom and support to do just that.